Hockey players, like other athletes, fall in love with their equipment. Craig Ludwig
loved his shin pads, which he wore at the University of North Dakota in 1979 until he retired from the NHL in 1999.
Some athletes just refuse to use modern stuff.
"You just get used to stuff," said Ludwig. "I guess it is more old school guys who want to stick with their stuff. My shin pads are the same and just as old. You get comfortable and used to everything, and even the underwear and T-shirts. They pretty much (had to fall) off of us before you put new stuff on."
Ludwig understood the mentality of former National Football League linebacker Matt Millen, who in 1978 as a rookie with the Oakland Raiders took Gene Upshaw's old pads along with defensive end John Matuszak's old equipment, modified it slightly and used it. Millen figured if it worked for the old guys season after season, it would work for him.
Ludwig's shin pads didn't even resemble shin pads by the end of his NHL career. But if it wasn't broken, or even if it was broken, why change?
"Duct tape," Ludwig said was the reason his pads survived for so long. "That is absolutely all there is. Every once in a while we have to put a piece of plastic over the top, rivet it on. You know they are probably 85 percent duct tape but they have been holding up. That duct tape has held a couple of my trucks together, so I figure it would be pretty good for these things too."
Millen played 10 years with Oakland and took his equipment to San Francisco, where he encountered a zealous equipment manager who decided to throw the old pads out. Millen retrieved the gear from the garbage and told the equipment guy that he didn't need new stuff. NHL equipment guys in Montreal, Long Island, Minnesota and Dallas knew better than to try and get rid of Ludwig's stuff.
"No, the first thing I looked for was those shin pads and those shoulder pads," said Ludwig. "I think they realize that the only thing I have to have are some pads. I even got a letter from the Hockey Hall of Fame that they wanted to put them in the Hall of Fame after I was done playing."
Ludwig still has the shin pads and the shoulder pads. The Hall of Fame never called back.
For years, there was some suspicion that Ludwig's shin pads were getting wider and wider but Ludwig said that wasn't the case at all.
"Actually they don't, if they do, it is on their own," Ludwig explained. "It gets harder and harder, the wider they get, to skate with them. I try to bend them back in as much as I can and put the tape around them to hold them in. If they get wider, they are doing that on their own. It is duct tape."
Wider shin pads do help with shot blocking, and Ludwig was one of the best in the business at that aspect of the game. The shoulder pads, which also came from the University of North Dakota, offered the illusion of protection.
"I had the shoulder pads since my first year in college, there is no protection in them things either. They are comfortable and I will stick with them," he said.
What kept the old shoulder pads together?
"They were pretty good," he said of the shoulder pads. "Every once in a while, you put a little stitching in them, put some straps back on them to keep them on, but by the end of the first period, they are not where they are supposed to be but I stayed with them."
"They are spoiled now. They get a new pair of skates every two months, new shin pads and stuff like that. They like to turn it over every two months and that’s fine. We’ll stick with our old stuff." -- Craig Ludwig
Toward the end of his career, the Stars' equipment guys kidnapped Ludwig's skates. It didn't make Ludwig happy, but he understood the reason.
"My toes were sticking out the end of them," he said. "They just could not repair them anymore and I didn't want to get rid of them so they hid them on me at the end of the year and I haven't seen them since. So I had no choice. I would turn some corners and my big toe would come out of it every once in a while. I guess it wasn't too safe getting hit with pucks. The whole sole was rotten on the bottom. That is basically what had happened. They just couldn't rivet it and hold it back together."
Ludwig doesn't think young players appreciate old equipment he likes did.
"They are spoiled now," Ludwig said. "They get a new pair of skates every two months, new shin pads and stuff like that. They like to turn it over every two months and that's fine. We'll stick with our old stuff."